Essex Police and the Essex Biodiversity Project group have joined forces to produce a special leaflet about hare poaching, which will be given to landowners and keepers.

The leaflet, entitled Hare Today…Gone Tomorrow. Brown hares and illegal coursing in Essex, seeks the views of the public about problems caused by hare poachers. The leaflet includes a pull-out questionnaire to encourage landowners to report incidents to the Essex Police Wildlife Crime Unit.

PC Andy Long, the wildlife crime co-ordinator for Essex Police, told Shooting Times: “I am often informed that farmers do not tell us that they are being targeted by hare poachers as they believe we are not interested. However, we are and this is a chance to let us know the real extent of the problem. The information obtained will help us correctly to utilise resources to tackle the problem. We have an average of 10 to 15 reports a month about suspected poaching activity. We urge anyone who sees people with dogs such as lurchers acting suspiciously on open land to contact the police immediately.”

Essex Police’s initiative has received national recognition. Detective inspector Brian Stuart, head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), told Shooting Times that during the past few years the NWCU has recorded an increase of incidents across the UK involving hare poachers with dogs. He added: “There is no doubt that the brown hare has seen a rapid decline over
the years and through initiatives such as this we will hopefully see some positive outcomes that will contribute to reducing crime in rural areas.”

Pro-shooting organisations have said that other constabularies should follow Essex Police’s example.

BASC’s Tom Blades welcomed the move: “BASC is actively involved with the fight against hare poaching and supports all efforts to catch offenders. We urge the authors of this leaflet to engage with the local keepers and shooters who will have valuable information gained from spending many hours on the ground. Working in partnership is the way forward. BASC will be
contacting both the Essex Biodiversity Project and Essex Police to offer its assistance with the initiative.”

The Countryside Alliance’s Tim Bonner concurred: “Hare poaching is often accompanied by threats and violence to farmers and gamekeepers. It is good to see Essex Police taking the issue seriously and differentiating between illegal activity and legal hunting carried out with the permission of the landowner.”